Primeval: S3 Ep7 – Updated Pondering

Helpfully, some advance information about the upcoming Primeval episodes can be found on the prog’s wikipedia page, the one headed Primeval Episodes. And tonight’s, in case you missed the trailer, is to do with a medieval knight pursuing a fearsome dragon (which turns out to be a dino, natch). Anyway, the writer of tonight’s episode is one Andrew Rattenbury and if you nip over to his resume at IMDB – – you’ll see that it makes for very interesting reading. Guy has quite a CV of scripts written for Peak Practice, Holby City, Casualty, Monarch of the Glen, The Golden Hour, Hotel Babylon, and most recently The Bill, Harley Street, and Crusoe. Those are just the highlights. Spot the SF (or even fantasy) writing experience? That’s right, there ain’t none and if you scan the full IMDB resume you’ll find none there either.

I may be wrong – AR may well write fabulous SF under a pseudonym, either for screen or printed mags, although if you were writing scripts for Primeval, a SCIENCE FICTION series for television, you might wanna use that other persona. So I think we can safely deduce that AR has no experience writing SF, which I suppose makes him right at home working on Primeval this season.

Now the man has considerable scripting experience, no doubt about it, but that is no guarantee that he has the necessary feel for plausible, consistent SF. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s gonna be an interesting viewing tonight … well, I’m recording it to watch tomorrow, after which I’ll deliver my pithy commentary, and who knows, I might be eating a nice big juicy portion of humble pie!

I said might.


Good god almighty. Or as Frank Zappa once said – ‘Great googly moogly!’

I had thought that Primeval couldn’t get more brainless but, gotta hand it to them, in this episode the writing really plumbed new depths of daft. I mean Chuckle Brothers daft.

The main part of this critique hinges, as keen-eyed observers will have already noted, on the question of spoken English. When the medieval knight came charging out after the Dinodragon, I was actually surprised to hear him intone something in Latin, then to see Danny and Sarah do a bit of on-the-hoof translating. However, my mood nosedived into crashing disappointment when we started to see the knight nattering away in….colloquial english, as she is spoken here in the early 21st century. And LO! – there he is, talking away, perfectly understandable and understanding what is said to him.

Which is bollocks. In the middle ages the common tongue was Old English, derived from Anglo-Saxon tongues, whereas the ruling elite spoke Norman French and the clergy spoke Latin.

More in a little while.

And….a little while passes by. So basically, the notion of someone stepping from the 12th century into contemporary Britain and being able to carry on a conversation is completely and uttery imbecilic. And to foist that on a watching audience again demonstrates a pretty low level of respect for that audience. (Of course, there is a way in which it could have worked – you could have had the knight come through with a page of some kind, so that they could have some dialogue about arriving in this nightmarish future, while Danny and/or Sarah would use their college-level latin to try and converse with Sir William. But that would have demanded a bit of hard work).

Other idiocies – Sarah going into the shop, trying on clothes, walks out without paying (another instance of dressing up, following on from last week. Whats that all about?); Sarah then goes for a jaunt off thru the anomaly just for a nosy, which under the Cutter regime would have been cause for being sent to bed wi’ nae supper! ; Abby jumping into close proximity with a wounded dinosaur (Ah, you’ll be my lunch, then), soon followed by Danny doing same; Danny turning into Zorro, going toe to toe with a knight who’s a veteran mercenary; Abby’s brother; Connor living with Lester (wahey, its the Odder Couple!); William de Mornay’s wild hacking rampage neutralised by Abby’s reason and compassion…yeah right.

And for additional perspectives on the above, take a look at the Primeval board at ITV forums, specifically this thread:-

When you lose the intelligent viewers, doom ain`t far behind.

And by the way, a leetle bird tells me that the story ideas are concoted by the series producers, Impossible Pictures, who then take on board writers to flesh said ‘ideas’ into scripts. Well, well, isn’t that intriguing?

22 Responses

  1. Surely, you liked the episode.

  2. No, I didn’t. I shall give a fuller response later as I’m very busy with another writing project. For the time being, ask yourself why the Knight could speak and understand colloquial english.

  3. Wasn’t colloquial englsh around in those days?

  4. Nope. The common tongue during the High Middle Ages was Old English, ie the Anglo-Saxon tongue, which is a bit different from even Chaucer’s day.

  5. Very well written. Couldn’t have put it better. Glad to see a reviewer who seem to be able to use his brain wheras most other reviws say” dumb but fun”.

  6. Why thankee. As far as I`m concerned, if its dumb, it aint fun. Of course, there’s different types of dumb, the kind of knowing, entertaining dumb, and the just-plain slackjawed, bark-like-a-seal dumb. Sadly, the latter is winning out on Primeval.

  7. I have some points to add.

    The Dracorex was a herbivore, so Danny and Abby going near it would not be a problem.

    Maybe there was a reason why the Knight could speak English. Besides, the translation storyline would take too much time out of an already short 45 minute programme.

    Sarah payed for the dress but they cut that bit out(and both dress scenes recently have been relevent).

    If Sarah hadn’t been into the past Danny would be dead and therefore I suggest Becker would shoot him resulting in BIGGER changed in the timeline. They are looking at the big picture. She didn’t do anything vital.

    And in your idiocies section you pick out random plot threads which aren’t bad e.g. Lester and Connor (those scenes are hilarious!).

    The scene where Abby persuaded the Knight was a well written and directed episode.

    You just pick up on the negative things and not any of the positive (I can imagine you replying with “there isn’t any positive parts” but I beg to differ)

  8. Well done! Nice to see you making an effort. I’ll get back to you later (kinda busy right now)….okay, the Dracorex was a herbivore but it was also badly wounded (and I didnt buy it being saved by a bit of workshop surgery either – the beastie had about half a foot of medieval lance stuck in its side, which would take a bit more than stitching), so getting within lunge distance of it seems like a BAD IDEA.

    The spoken language question – well, if the writers are going to do this kind of thing, they have to come up with a plausible way around it, or just admit that they are slinging any old piece of tat up on the screen, any old contradictory, nonsensical bucket of swill. Sorry, time constraints in a 45 minute frame just doesn’t cut it as an excuse in what is supposed to be professional screenwriting.

    Sarah’s shopping expedition relevant? – only if you believe that the writers could not have figured another source for the information apparently required to mollify Bill the Knight and stop him chopping Danny into mince. When I saw that particular sequence I immediately flashed on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, after I’d pictured how Nick Cutter would have reacted (not approvingly, because as a scientist he would realise how dicey messing with the past is). As for the dressing up in the previous ep, sorry but that was completely superfluous, added nothing at all to the story; seems to me that someone on the ideas team at Impossible Pictures has got a thing about fancy dress.

    The idiocies I picked out aren’t random – the common thread is their feeble nature, and whoever had the witless idea to put them on camera. As for the alleged hilarity of the Lester and Connor thing…well, its no bad thing if it amuses you but I’ve seen a fair number of comedic pairings, Abbot and Costello, Eric and Ernie, Felix and Oscar, and it just comes across as overfamiliar and worn out.

    Abby persuading the Knight not to go mad with the broadsword? – I just dont buy it, sorry.

    As for not mentioning the positive things – well, thats not really the job of a critic. And anyway, the good things – CGI, direction, scenarist and lighting etc – dont really balance out such fundamental flaws as a bad script. No amount of luscious icing is going to make a stodgy, stale sponge taste any better than it is.

    And in saying all these things I’m not getting at you, not at all – you’ve shown that you like the series a lot, and are demonstrating considerable loyalty to it, which in my eyes makes the writers’ shortcomings even more reprehensible. Because viewers and fans like you (and me) deserve much better than we’re getting. We really do.

  9. Thank you. :)

  10. I am not trying to get at you either. I just disagree with the critisism the show is getting.

    I am not protecting the show out of my inability to let dieing shows go but through the fact that I think series 3 is no worse than the previous series’. Most episodes in series 3 are actually better than the other series imo. The series as a whole is alot better than the others.

    I haven’t seen any of the pairs you mentioned so maybe it’s a cliche but I haven’t seen them so I found it original and funny. I found no other irrelevent plot threads.

    The Dracorex seemed pretty docile.

    The thing the Knight wanted the most was his wife, he went after the Dragon for her, so when Sarah told him about her it hit him hard which made him want to return. Alot of plotholes that are in the series can be sorted out offscreen.

    Sarah’s detour into the past was the most efficient (I think) way of getting that specific info about his life.

  11. Well, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I see things from a writers point of view, ie an awareness of technical flaws that I wouldn’t permit in my own work. You seem quite happy with what you’re seeing on the screen, so thats that.

  12. I watched this last night and thought it was by far the worst episode of the series so far. I’ve been mildly enjoying Primeval this time around (in a turn off your brain before watching kinda way), but it’s just a shame that it’s resorting to a ‘monster-of-the-week’ formula rather than good series story arcs.

    I’m disappointed, but I hope the next episode can pick things up.

  13. Ah, living in hope, then Mark? Well, I probably wont be tuning in and doing another enraged dance about the remaining episodes….and yet, there is a strange fascination, bit like watching a slomo car crash dummy test, or the demolition of a gasometer or such like. In the end, it should be a warning to us all.

    Such comments, Mark, run the risk of the wrath of the true fans.

  14. I think you should watch the 3-part finale as it looks amazing. I agree that we should agree to disagree.

  15. Indeed Mike! I think the fact that I’ve watched all of them so far means it would be rude not to watch (and judge!) the final episodes. It’s one of those shows that could be so good, and I live in hope!

  16. It is so good. Good you are watching!

  17. Just out of curiosity, Primeval Fan, why do all your comments have different user emails? And am I right in thinking that you`re in Amsterdam?

  18. No, I’m British but I didn’t use my proper email adress to avoid spam if there is any. What is this to do with Amsterdam?

  19. Every comment that comes in has it IP address visible, and the IPs attached to your various (must be generated pseudo-email addresses) source to Amsterdam. So whatever service you’re using to hide your email probably runs thru a server in Amsterdam. I think.

  20. I’m not purposefully hiding. Do you like Family Guy?

  21. I agree, this episode was a let down. There was maybe one okayish bit of dialogue, but even then it is a bit ‘meh’.

    Just to clear up on the whole Sarah thing, she did buy the costume. She went to a market type stall, bought loas of costumes and then went into a nearby shop to try them on and pick the best one, although I highly doubt she needed to waste her money on them. She would have been better off with a sheet wrapped round her. Oh well, I am hoping there will be a new series and it will be improved.

    I really love Primeval, but this series has left me disappointed and I feel like I am missing something this year in the Sci-Fi department… Although kids at my school think I am just weird, but oh well.

  22. I noticed the stall thing too, even thought I think this series is alot better than the previous ones.

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